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Serendipity Can Be a Tool

It is easy for anything we do frequently to become routine. When it does, we often overlook new opportunities to improve the process.

When a competitor notices a great opportunity to improve, they gain an advantage. If you capitalize on serendipity, you will have the advantage.

Serendipity is the chance discovery of something valuable. Luck plays a part but it may be less important than you think.

If you introduce experimentation into your processes, you decrease the time it takes for your staff to find the next opportunity. That opportunity will increase the effectiveness of your services and your mission. Each time you make a process more effective, you increase your nonprofit’s competitive advantage and sustainability. You also increase the value of your nonprofit to your community. Increasing your value is a great way to attract additional community support.

Routines are efficient. Every new idea will mean that processes must change, which will lower efficiency. The loss of efficiency is one of the costs of increasing effectiveness. The counterbalance is the increase in donor and community support that comes from having a more effective mission.

Next Step:

Encourage your staff to vary the way they perform their tasks and serve your clients

Change your budgeting process to make funds available for experimenting with new ideas

Ask your board to increase its risk tolerance and willingness to embrace failed ideas

Without a change in the budget, only the small incremental changes will have enough support to be implemented. However, the big ideas are the ones that will capture attention and support. When big ideas are rejected as too expensive or too risky, it dampens enthusiasm.

The opportunity to experiment raises the engagement and productivity of most workers. Higher levels of engagement have been shown to increase staff retention. When key staff members are retained, employment costs are reduced and sustainability increases.

The benefits of experimentation (lower employment costs, increased generosity of donors and other supporters, more effective services, etc.) more than justify the costs and risks.

Take It Further:

Create a culture of experimentation by encouraging the board to vary its activities in hopes of finding more effective ways to govern

Vary your fundraising activities to help you find more effective ways to cultivate, recruit, communicate, and serve donor and other supporters

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